Resolutions are easy to make. The problem is, they’re even easier to break. Nevertheless, making New Year’s resolutions is a must for business owners. In my never-ending quest to make things easier for entrepreneurs, I’ve come up with some resolutions that shouldn’t be that hard to keep and that should help all of us. What follows may not seem like typical New Year’s resolutions. But that’s just as well, since this isn’t going to be a typical year. The sunniest predictions for 2009 say the economy will start to turn around in the fall, but that it will still take at least another year before we’re back to where we were. I’m not saying this to sound discouraging; it’s just the reality we entrepreneurs must now face. If some of these resolutions sound a bit familiar, I’ve discussed a few of these ideas in previous columns.
The same old solutions are simply not going to work these days. So Resolution #1 is to think smarter. Apply new solutions to old (and new) challenges. Stop doing what you’ve always done and ask yourself, What else you can offer with what you’ve got? “Do more with less” may be a cliche, but it’s a good mantra to adopt in 2009.
That leads nicely to Resolution #2 — Be resourceful. There are lots of ways to spend less and achieve the same (or better) results. Audit your business. Check for inefficiencies. This could be as complex as reviewing credit and collection policies or adopting a new inventory tracking system, or as simple as switching to energy-efficient appliances, equipment, and light bulbs (like the new ball they dropped in Times Square).
Speaking of equipment, Resolution #3 is about technology. Too many of you think you can’t afford to upgrade, but really you can’t afford not to. Old hardware sucks time and can literally slow your business down. Outdated software is just inefficient and can easily affect productivity, which of course will likely impact revenues and profits. There are bargains aplenty out there, so it’s actually a good time to upgrade your technology.
But technology is more than hardware and software. It’s e-strategies as well. Do you have a Web site? What do you use it for? Is it optimized? Do you send out e-mail newsletters and other announcements to your customers and clients? Though many of us are just now really embracing Web 2.0, the next generation of Web marketing is already upon us. Are you using video on your site? Will your customers benefit from a webinar or podcast? What about social media? Are you on LinkedIn? Does your business have a presence on Facebook? Are you Twittering? Have you considered offering or participating in affiliate programs?
Remember the old adage “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”? That’s Resolution #4. Speak up. Ask for what you want. Nearly every business is in the same dire straits these days, so everyone is negotiating. Don’t buy anything without at least asking for the best price. Talk to your landlord about renegotiating your office lease. Check real estate prices. People are buzzing about the troubles about to affect the commercial real estate market, much like the problems we’ve seen in the housing market the last two years. Is it worth it for you to buy office/commercial space rather than lease it?
You also need to talk about what you need. As I wrote several weeks ago, this is not the time to keep your troubles to yourself. So Resolution #5 is to open up. Let your employees know how things are going so they can help if you need it. It’s better to tell the truth than to hide it. Uninformed workers are often immobilized by fear of the unknown, so sharing the state of your business keeps everyone focused on what is, rather than what may be.
Resolution #6 comes from Norris Krueger, otherwise known as Dr. Optimism, advocate for Idaho small businesses and blogger at entrepreneurshipidaho.blogspot.com. Norris says this year all entrepreneurs need to ask themselves, “What can I do to help other entrepreneurs?” This help can take many forms — partnerships, strategic alliances, etc. — but at the very least you should do business with your fellow business owners whenever possible. And as Dr. Optimism himself says, this “we’re all in this together” attitude is not an optimistic outlook, but rather a realistic one.
When “seeking” resolutions, I turned to Twitter and asked for suggestions. Resolution #7 came from Brice Sloan, a former diplomat and current owner of Sloan Security Fencing in Idaho (he came from Norris Krueger’s Twitter network). Sloan’s suggestion is to identify “the three people you can call at 3 a.m. when you have a problem and cherish them.” How smart is that? If you can’t think of three people who fit the bill, your2009 resolution should be to find them.
My personal resolution is to continue to educate and advocate on your behalf. America needs to break away from the “bigger is better” philosophy. Let’s make 2009 the year of the small business. Resolve to start a business. Or to grow the one you have. That’s the best way to help the American and global economies grow.
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